My next book, The Magical Detectives, comes out in just a few days time. A week ago I received advance copies. It’s always such a pleasure to finally hold the book in your hand. I can still remember the very first time I had that experience though it was over twenty five years ago. But I can’t help wondering how much longer there will be objects called books to hold proudly in your hand.
Right now I am trying to respond to the editor’s comments on the next book in the series, The Magical Detectives and the Forbidden Spell, which is due out in July. The thing is, I sent in this manuscript in December 2009. Consequently, I can’t remember all that much about it. I’m having to find my way back into the book emotionally. It’s like going back to a house you used to live in and trying to remember where everything was.
Then there’s the tricky business of deciding about each and every one of the editor’s suggestions. Mostly these are unimportant to me. For example I have written,
He felt a great temptation to close his eyes and drift away. But he forced himself to keep them open
and my editor would rather I wrote,
He felt a great temptation to close his eyes and drift away. But he forced them to stay open.
That sort of thing doesn’t bother me in the least. What I do find difficult, however, is the tendency that all editors have, to believe that a story is something real that exists independent of the words the writer uses to describe it. I call this Idealised Story Syndrome.
The truth is that there is no story behind the words; the words are the story. Tamper with them just a little and the story changes just a little; tamper with them too much and the whole glittering edifice comes tumbling down around your ears.
I honestly don’t think they realise what a fragile thing a story is. Sometimes they seem to me like burly physical education teachers, whistles strung on cords around their necks, knocking the spineless thing into shape while the author looks on like a parent gazing helplessly through the railings, trying to suppress a cry of dismay.